Monthly Archives: August 2014

No More Diets – 3 Questions To Ask Yourself About the Way You Eat

Do you find that you are constantly searching for the next “best” diet plan or way of eating rather than actually implementing one, at all? Or you implement it but do not really stick with it? Or you do but you are miserable? You resist the foods you love? You lose weight and gain it back?  Anytime you set yourself up to be more strict, follow a meal plan perfectly or eliminate certain foods completely, you are setting yourself up for failure. Let me add that if you have food allergies or choose not to eat meat or gluten, whatever it may be, double check yourself to see if it is a “fad” or something that truly works for you.

So how do you know if the way you are eating is working for you? Ask yourself the following questions.

1. Why am I eating this way? I often have clients say that they are not getting the results they want and they try out a new way of eating. “I am not losing weight so I think I am going to try (insert paleo, gluten free, vegan, south beach, the meal plan in Clean Eating Magazine etc). If this sounds like you I want to you to ask yourself WHY you are choosing that way of eating. Because it is on the news? Because your friend had success? You do not know what else to do?

Solution: Unless you have an absolutely specific, whole hearted, reason for choosing a certain diet, do not classify yourself as anything. Eat foods that make you feel great! Eat food that makes you look your best? And eat in a way that gives you energy. Remember everyone is unique in their body type, genetic makeup, work schedules, food likes and dislikes, food tolerances, goals, exercise preferences, etc. Seriously look at what I just listed and ask yourself what do you need to do to meet all those areas? Do I need to eat 6 meals a day if I only have 2 breaks? Do I need to give up meat if I love it? Am I really intolerant to gluten or do I think it is the magical answer? Dig deep and ask yourself the why?

2. Is it Effortless? The number one way to get off track with eating is to make a diet so stressful and complicated that you cannot follow it. So ask yourself, is it effortless? Are you shopping all over town for specific ingredients? Is prepping your food for the week too stressful? Is it miserable to come home for dinner and eat something because you are “suppose” to not because you want too?

Solution: Pick your number one struggle. Time? Preparation? Connivence? And work on that one struggle only (studies show that when you focus on one habit at a time you are more likely to succeed). If you find yourself always out and about hungry, making poor food choices often, pack a protein bar with you wherever you go, find a Starbucks and pick up a fruit cup. Is a protein bar the most ideal choice ever? No. But its better than a milkshake. Is it hard to prep food for the week? Do it one day at a time? Use a crockpot. Buy pre cut vegetables.

Create a solution for the one habit you want to break.

3. Am I able to maintain my eating week in week out while performing, looking and feeling my best? A good way to know is simply if you have been able to stick with it for an extended period of time and feel really good doing it, in your food choices, in your energy levels, in your physique and in the effortlessness of eating. I will share with you my struggle. I tend to want to follow a meal plan. And usually I do great for a couple days, but meal plans are not conducive to birthday parties, girls nights and sporting events. And this is the trouble with meal plans . We get into a social situation and get down on ourselves because we can not follow it the way we are suppose to and who can blame us. We want to live life.

Solution: It comes down to making conscious food choices ongoing. Honestly take some accountablitly for your food choices, and this doesn’t mean never indulging. I was at a college football game the other day and I found BBQ chicken skewers. It was the perfect choice. I walked by the candy apples, the french fries and pizza and found exactly what I knew I would enjoy eating and feel good eating. You know what? My sister who is in great shape got a giant snickerdoodle cookie. She works out, eats healthy and loves cookies.  She probably will get in a workout today and make some veggies and it will all be ok. It is about balance.

Final Thoughts: This is for your health and this is for your life. We are not told to eat veggies, move more, drink water and stress less just because. It is not to be boring and it is not to be obsessed. It is for your health, well-being, and quality of life. It is to be mentally and physically fit for whatever life throws at you. It really is about moderation. You can still have a cookie, you can still have a glass of wine and you can still eat a burger and fries. Do not diet, find a healthy eating plan that you can maintain forever..yes I said forever! You can achieve your desired goals but you must take action. Knowing what is healthy is one thing, doing it is another.

4 Ways Social Media’s Connections Are Keeping You Disconnected From Life

Social media is odd in a sense that it really offers no sense of relaxation (even if you are zoning out) and no sense of productivity. Most of us are addicted to it and it would take some serious effort to break the habit.  An easy test is to leave your phone by your side all day and only use it for phone calls and I’ll even say text messages. See how easy it is for you to NOT use your phone for anything else. If you have to use an app or email for work, fine, just don’t open Facebook, Instrgram, Pinterest, Twitter or anything of the sort.

But first….

Think about it.

Have you ever been at a social event or sitting at a family gathering on your phone and you look up and everyone around you in on their phone?

Have you ever been at a restaurant and noticed a family of four all consumed  by their phones at the dinner table?

Have you ever been out with a sole friend or sitting at home with your loved one and realized you are both sitting their playing with your phones?

Now, have you ever wondered in all these situations what would be happening if there were no phones around? What would you be doing? Talking? Laughing? Engaging in conversation and sharing thoughts, experiences and ideas perhaps? Trying a new activity?

Here is how social media’s connections have really disconnected us all, from each other and reality.

1. We are using technology as a form of communication without really connecting.  We are not really being seen and heard literally and figuratively.

Reality Check: When you are with people communicate with them and resist the urge to pick up your phone.

2. Social Media is everyone’s highlight real. It often showcases our best and happiest moments. Vacations, celebrations, fabulous hair, bodies and outfits, the happy couples and the happy family. We do not live without struggles, we just rarely share it on social media. It is an odd way of proving our self-worth to the world. “Look at me, I am ok” is really all we are trying to say. It is self validation in a sense.

Reality Check: Social Media is not what it appears to be.

3. Comparison is the thief of joy. In regards to number 2, we see these highlights and often compare our bodies, our lives, our homes, etc. Everyone is putting their best self out there. How many times have you taken 5 selfies and then deleted the most undesirable looking 4? I have. What we do in turn is compare ourselves to other peoples bodies, lives, jobs, and think we are not enough. When really, two minutes ago before you opened Facebook you were, until you compared yourself to someone else. Don’t let social media steal you joy and everything wonderful about you.

Reality Check: Resist the urge to compare your life to everyone else’s highlight reel. It is unfair to you!

4.We like LIKES, followers and “friends.” We like pictures that get 50 likes, when our Instagram followers increase and feel proud with how many Facebook friends we have. Again a form of self-validation, that we are ok and worth it, when really these likes have very little meaning or validity.

Reality Check: Develop your self-worth by building better relationships with people around you and put your social media time into activities that bring you joy, happiness and accomplishment. And then delete any follower or friend who you really don’t know or would not be able to strike up a conversation with in person. It is not mean and they probably do not care either.

How To Break The Habit

To break the habit, set a 30 minute time frame in the morning to check social media and a 30 minute time frame at night. Really, do you need to be on it for more than an hour anyways? During the rest of the day be present in your job, whatever activity you may be doing and most importantly be present with the people in your life.

 

8 Lessons I Learned From Chronic Back Pain

I was in chronic pain for an entire year, well at least 300 out of the 365 days of this past year. I figure I had one decent day a week. I was constantly told, “You are too young to have back pain.” In my head I was always thinking, ok well I do. Pain is pain and it’s all relative to everyone and every situation. It has taken about a year to meet my goal of feeling 80% better, %80 of the time but I will tell you I have gained some serious perspective.

Lesson #1 – Eventually Your Body Will Catch Up With You If You Don’t Take Care of It.

Since elementary school I have been diagnosed with Scoloiosis, a lateral curvature of the spine. Growing up it never really bothered me and no doctor ever told me it was severe enough to wear a brace. I made it college volleyball just fine, through heavy olympic lifting, plyometrics, and constant jumping and reactive movements on the court. By age 27, still keeping fairly intense workouts, I noticed that a few times a year I would have severe pain that targeted multiple spots on my back as my spine curves in multiple places. I would get a referral for physical therapy, go for a few sessions and recover just fine. However, just two weeks after my 30th birthday last April, my back flared up again, but this time it did not go away.

My Kettlebell guru (as I like to call him), Dr. Mark Cheng, stated “Movement it like money.” You can max out everything on your credit card right now, but eventually it will catch up with you if you do not address it. Same things goes with your body (and mind, see Lesson #2). If you are moving incorrectly on a consistent basis, you may not notice it immediately but sure enough, it will catch up with you.

Lesson #2 – Emotional Pain And Stress Will Manifest Into Physical Pain, No Joke!

Being under a great deal of emotional stress at the time, I am sure some of it manifested its way into my back, and with the combination of my pre-existing Scoliosis. Doctors, tests, and a collection of medication did not help. My X-rays and MRI’s showed the curves in my spine, along with a minimal bugled disc in my lumbar and cervical spine. The physical abnormality was there but the chronic stress definitely assisted the chronic pain. Getting my mind right was one of the biggest challenges to getting back to a pain free way of living. Some days I could keep perspective and somedays it was difficult.

During this past year I have done a great deal of reading, writing and tried to implement a more practical and positive way of thinking into my life, and if you are dealing with any physical or emotional pain, it can be tough. Remember you are a constant work in progress. One day at a time. One hour at a time, if a day seems too overwhelming.

Lesson #3 Most Doctors Will Prescribe Medication First,

It’s Their Job

I visited different physical therapists, sports medicine doctors and pain management doctors, all who prescribed medication after medication. I had 9 prescriptions in my hand for pain and anxiety. NINE! I had different muscle relaxors, different anti-inflammatory pills, different anxiety meds and you know what? None of them were helping. In fact, I still have the stash because they were worthless to me. I was struggling to make it through a day at work and was miserable. My last attempt with a doctor left me leaving the office in tears. Poor guy, all he did was suggest another pain medication.

I know all these doctors were just doing their job, but masking the pain will only get you so far, and I knew that.

Lesson #4 – You Must Listen To Your Body

You know I am a fitness loving kind of girl and thrive on movement, so not being able to workout like I use to was really hard on me. I got to a point where I had to admit my workouts were not working for me. Even through the pain, I was trying to workout, being the fitness fanatic I am, stressing about my inadequate workouts and putting so much pressure on myself. I finally had to let go of trying to control my body to be a certain way when it wasn’t healthy. I had put so much emphasis on the “fitness” aspect of working out, that I ignored the “health” aspect. I needed to change what I was doing. And I did. I stopped CrossFit, I stopped running, I stopped hiking, I stopped weight lifting and resorted to yoga and walking my dog. I was at my worst when I could not step up onto a curb without extreme pain. I took a step back and realized I needed a new approach.

Focus on what you CAN do, not what you cannot do.

Lesson #5  Be Relentless With Your Pursuit of Improvement And It Is Ok To Be Mad

The turning point neared the middle of August when I finally turned to a highly recommended physical therapist. He was the first to show interest, amazement and concern, that my spine is indeed very curvy and no wonder I am in so much pain. My frustration was more than obvious. “You should not be frustrated” he said. “You should be PISSED! Your spine is shaped like an S.” And then BOOM, he went to work, designing a series of corrective exercises and stretches that I would do at therapy and at home. His goal for me was to be 80% better, 80% of the time. I attended weekly sessions in pain, and went through periods of hopelessness, but I was relentless in my physical therapy exercises and stretching. After 5 months I could finally see the light, small improvements.

Lesson #6 Find A Solution and Implement It

My PT pretty much told me that this was something I was going to have to deal with for life and learn ways to keep it under control. Through thousands of repetition I focused on core strength and stability, spinal mobility and upper body strength (scapular stability). I slowly, over the course of a year been able to add exercises back into my routine and return to my normal workouts. However I now add a lengthy and consistent core, mobility and stretching aspect to my routine. I do not run anymore and if I do high intensity workouts, I slow them down and focus on form.

Lesson #7 No One Cares About Your Health As Much As You Do

I was relentless in my pursuit to address my pain. I made call after call, appointment after appointment and initiated follow up after follow up and implemented exercise after exercise to improve my back. There are so many times it would have been easy not to take an extra step to get it under control but I persisted. I had a great support system but no one could do the work for me.

Lesson #8 There is Always Something To Be Grateful For

The reality is the pain was present. It was not going away and I was doing everything I could possibly be doing to assist in that. Some moments would be miserable but I was able to see the light and do a great deal of self reflection. When I look back on this year I recognize it was a painful year but also a year of growing and learning.

I can always find the lesson in the struggle.

Are You Controlling Your Cardio Or Is Your Cardio Controlling You

About 3 years ago I met a fitness competitor, Christy Allen, (who is now my virtual BFF) online and did a 12 week meal plan from her (which I only made it 8 weeks through because when I got to the carb cycling it just wasn’t worth the extra effort as I was doing this more for “fun, not to compete).

My Jeans Still Fit

One of the first pieces of advice she gave me beyond the meal plan was to eliminate cardio completely and focus strictly on weight training. What?!?! We had several emails and a phone conversation in which she told me. “I promise you will not gain weight or fit tighter in your jeans. Trust me! If you do not see results you can always add it back in.”  Even as a trainer this concept has taken me a while to get use to, mainly because I actually gave it a try.  I took her advice and eliminated cardio (except for a day of swimming at the time) and focused on hitting the weight room 4-5 days a week. And you know what? I felt better, stressed less about my workouts and fit better in my jeans. Yes!

A Cardio Refresher

What is “cardio” anyways? Cardio is the abbreviated version of cardiovascular, which is the system associated with the heart and lungs, and in the exercise world associated with aerobic exercise or steady state cardio. Aerobic exercise is exercise that can be sustained for an extended period of time such as jogging, swimming, cycling, or extended time on an piece of equipment such as the rower, ellipitcal or stationary bike. At the time I was shooting for 4-5 days a week of running 3 miles, and my problem was, I hated it. I did not look forward to hit, it hurt my hip and back and it made my appetite shoot through the roof! I was constantly starving and exhausted and could not find a balance. Cardio was controlling me.

Why Are You Doing Cardio? Ask Yourself. 

While I know some people love running or biking (or use it because they train for endurance events), cardio is often appealing for people for extended periods of time because of the amount of calories that can be burned in lets say 45-90 minutes worth of activity. I see many posts and hear lots of comments about how many calories people burn. Maybe it’s 900 calories in a cardio kick boxing class or 1200 in their 7 mile run, however I do not often hear people say they enjoy it or see people get GREAT results from this kind of activity. So ask yourself why you are doing it? Are you seeing results? Do you enjoy it enough to be consistent with it?

Often people find a hard balance with extra cardio because they feel they can eat anything they want because their calories are offset. If you have talked to someone running a marathon chances are they did not lose a ton of weight doing it because they were eating back the 1500 plus calories they burned on their 15 mile run. And why wouldn’t you? Your body needs the fuel for the hours it takes to run. Another issue I see is that people use cardio to work off bad habits. If someone indulges too much or has a bad week of eating they immediately turn to cardio to burn off the extra calories and make up for their poor choices. This is turn puts cardio in a negative light. It is punishment for choices in other areas of our life. If you find that you are doing cardio for extended period of time and are miserable, are dreading your workouts or using cardio often to work off last nights dinner then cardio may be controlling you too.

Control Your Cardio

There is a place for aerobic activity in your life but if you find that cardio is controlling your time, your energy and your food choices it is time to turn it around and control cardio. If you are looking to improve body composition or lose fat/weight change your focus to the following:

1. Spend the bulk of your time lifting weights. By increasing lean muslce mass you are increasing your metabolism and using more calories when you are NOT working out. Who doesnt want that?

2. Focus on your diet. Add tons of veggies, lean protein and a moderate amount of carbohydrates. Limit pop tarts, starbucks frappacinos and Jack In The Box double cheeseburgers. Drink more water than any other liquid. Be mindful of your eating and watch your portions.

3. Do 10-15 minutes of anaerobic training a couple times a week. Anaerobic training is shorter burst of intense works, such as sprints that elevate your heart rate quickly and then give yourself time to recover. You are not able to or supposed to be able to sustain this kind of work. I can be very uncomfortable to train this way and that is why many people avoid it. It totally sucks but push yourself. Get your heart rate up to a level where it is hard to maintain a conversation and then recover until you can chat up a storm, repeat for 10-15 minutes. You are being more efficient with your workouts and your time.

4. Trust the process. If you give this an honest shot and in three weeks do not notice a darn thing, add the cardio back in. But I encourage you to free yourself from the endless hours of boring cardio and the mind games you play with yourself by making up your indulgences.  Get strong in the weight room and create a healthier more efficient body in less time.

 

The 3 Day Sugar Challenge

 

Sugar Is Hiding From You

We have all heard that eating too much sugar is one of the many detrimental parts of the American diet. While it can contribute to a slew of health risks,  it still does not resonate enough with many people, as the population still continues to consume copious amounts of sugar each day.

Sugar is added to everything! Would you think that frozen pizza, mayonnaise, ketchup, bread, peanut butter, soups, and bacon have added sugar? Typically not but they do, to increase flavor and life shelf time. Ugh, as I’m writing this it makes me frustrated and sick to know those are primary reasons we have the added sugar in our foods. If I am going to consume a bowl of ice cream, I get it! It will have sugar in it and that’s ok. But when I eat a piece of bread or piece of bacon I do not want extra sugar added into it.

Sugar Recommendations 

Sugar recommendations as part of a healthy diet, recommend no more than 25 g of added sugar each day. If you have a glass of fruit juice, you have already consumed all your daily sugar. If you have one soda then you have already consumed almost twice your daily sugar recommendations.

I am a very conscious eater and yesterday I decided to count just my sugar grams. I was shocked to find out that after adding a cup of almond milk to my morning coffee (to make a yummy, little mocha), and a tablespoon of natural almond butter to my oatmeal, I had already consumed 9g at breakfast. Add another 8g from my protein bar post workout and I was already at 17g by 10am. ( I will add that sugar consumption post workout may actually be beneficial to you depending on the intensity of your workout and your goals. That is a blog for another time). Here I am, such a healthy, conscious, and focused eater and I still had another 12 hours before bedtime and 8 g of sugar left to consume. Yes, I can see why sugar is a problem!

How Many Grams Are You Eating?

Sugar is everywhere. It is more obvious in some sources, such as honey, fruit juice, agave nectar, maple syrup, and less obvious in others, such as the food I listed previously. Even if it is listed as a healthier sugar source, such as honey, it is still sugar. And while maple syrup is all good and natural, it is still 40 g of sugar for 2 tablespoons!!! (Insert distressed emoji face right here). The only sugars you don’t have to add to the 25g a day recommendation, are sugars from fruits. Fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are part of a very well-rounded healthy diet. With that being said it is not advisable to consume six pieces of fruit in a day which in turn depends on your goals, what else you are eating and more importantly your health.

Ask yourself – do you know how much sugar you are eating? The problem isn’t when the sugar level creeps up a couple of grams, it is when it creeps to 100-200grams of sugar a day. Have you ever asked your self if this might be you?  A pastry and starbucks coffee for breakfast, a mid afternoon soda and sweet and sour chicken for dinner?

3-Day Sugar Challenge

So here’s my challenge for you. I want you to track your sugar grams for three days. You can eat what you normally consume or make an attempt to lessen your sugar. Remember the recommendation is 25 g of sugar or less and the only thing that does not count towards that is fruit. During these three days I will also encourage you to stay away completely from any artificial sweeteners. That includes gum, protein bars, truvia, things like Crystal Lite, etc. (My downfall tends to be the artificial sweeteners). These things can keep your sweet tooth lingering and trigger binges and indulgences at a later time.

If you are going for a stricter approach, then make fruit apart of that recommendation. So if an apple has 15g of sugar, you know it will take the majority of your daily allotment.

My Goal For You – Awareness

My goal for your three days is simply awareness. To be aware of what you are consuming and realize that it may be way, way, way more than you think. Awareness is the first step because without knowing it is hard to take action to make a change.

I’ve become pretty aware of what is in my food and I want you to realize that you have many options of what you can eat. Oatmeal, rice, fresh meats, eggs, raw nuts should all have 0 grams of sugar. If you eat oatmeal and eggs for breakfast you are starting your day at 0g. If you eat pancakes with syrup and a glass of juice you are starting your day at 50g. Sometimes it is something you just do not think about, but I really, truly believe you should take 3 days to monitor your sugar and become more aware of what you are putting into your body.

I am going to do this for three days as well starting Sunday, tomorrow! If you want to join me in my three days please do! It will give you just enough time to shop to have some healthy options, if you do not already, for simply three days.

Final Reminders

–  No more than 25g of added sugar per day (if you are curious look to see if sugar is in the ingredient list)

– Fruit does not count unless you want to be more strict.

– No artificial sweeteners

Let me know what you think of this mini experiment and report back. I will do the same and post on Instagram and Facebook (see below) with my thoughts, meals and feedback. Feel free to comment with questions or ideas as well. We get through life together, so why not get involved and help each other out. 🙂

The Fit Life on Facebook

@fitwithadele

“We can achieve so many things by taking the first step – awareness.”

The Fit Life with Adele 🙂